Cyclone Fani: Tad weaker than 1999 Odisha super cyclone

The extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani is only a tad weaker than the 1999 Super Cyclone that devastated Odisha and killed nearly 10,500 people.

However, this time the casualties are expected to be almost nil as India’s cyclone forecasting mechanism has improved in the last two decades, providing the administration with ample time to evacuate people and take preventive actions to minimize the damage.

For instance, the India Meteorological Department informed the Odisha government about the impending storm nearly five days ago, giving them 48-72 hours to evacuate the people from vulnerable areas. The Election Commission of India has lifted the Model Code of Conduct in 11 districts of the coastal state so that the administration can fight the storm.

Fani is the first severe cyclonic storms to have formed in April since 1976. Also it is the second severe April cyclone to make landfall in India in 118 years.

“In between 1891 and 2017, only 14 severe tropical cyclones were formed in April over the Bay of Bengal and only one storm crossed the Indian mainland,” tweeted M Rajeevan, secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences.

“Fani, however, is not a super-cyclone. For that the wind speed has to be more than 220 km per hour,” K J Ramesh, director general IMD told DH.

April cyclones are rare. The track and severity of Fani makes it even rarer. One of the reasons may be its long gestation period. The storm had been building up since April 25 and is expected to make a landfall on May 3. Almost a week of build-up helps the storm collect more moisture from the ocean and gain strength.

Of late the pattern of cyclonic storms in the Indian Ocean has changed mainly because of the warming of ocean due to global warming.

In October 2018, two cyclones – Titli and Luban - were formed on two sides of Indian mainland, which was described by the IMD as a “rarest of rare” occasion.

Traditionally cyclones were seen more in October-November or around May, just before the onset of the monsoon. But now such tropical storms are being formed even in March-April, indicating a shift in the trend.

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